What is it?
High quality and relevant higher education is able to equip students with the knowledge, skills and core transferable competences they need to succeed after graduation, within a high quality learning environment which recognises and supports good teaching.
Quality assurance allows people to have confidence in the quality of higher education. Every higher education institution should have a rigorous system of internal quality assurance, assessed by Quality Assurance Agencies which make external checks.
Why is it needed?
While higher education graduates are more likely to find employment than people with lower levels of qualifications, higher education curricula are often slow to respond to changing needs in the wider economy, and fail to anticipate or help shape the careers of tomorrow.
The European Commission supports EU countries and higher education institutions in modernising education programmes to provide graduates with high-level, employable skills, as well as the transferable skills that equip graduates for a fast-changing labour market.
There is a strong need for flexible, innovative learning approaches and delivery methods to improve quality and relevance while expanding student numbers. One key way of achieving this, in line with the EU policy paper on Rethinking Education, is to exploit the transformational benefits of ICTs and other new technologies to enrich teaching, improve learning experiences and support personalised learning.
The reform and modernisation of Europe’s higher education depends on the competence and motivation of teachers and researchers, yet staffing levels have often not kept pace with expanding student numbers, putting further pressure on already strained capacities.
Better working conditions, including transparent and fair recruitment procedures, better initial and continuing professional development, and better recognition and reward of teaching and research excellence, are essential to ensure that Europe produces, attracts, and retains the high quality academic staff it needs.
What has been done so far?
The High-level Group on the modernisation of higher education has recently produced a report with key recommendations on improving the quality of teaching and learning in higher education in Europe.
In 2006 the European Parliament and Council adopted the Recommendation on further European cooperation in quality assurance in higher education which promoted the use of the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance (ESG). The recommendation encouraged EU countries to set up the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR) for higher education.
EQAR is an independent organisation which manages the register of quality assurance agencies in higher education that can operate across national borders, helping to develop a European dimension to quality assurance. These quality assurance agencies need to comply with the principles of the ESG in order to be registered in EQAR.
The European Commission publishes progress reports on developments in quality assurance at European level.